Greece to announce more spending cuts to get aid
Greece will announce a new round of sweeping spending cuts through 2012, just hours before an emergency meeting of euro-zone finance ministers on Sunday that is expected to approve the EU's contribution to an international loan package worth about euro120 billion ($159 billion) over the next three years.
The socialist government's negotiations with representatives from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which had begun on April 21, went down to the wire and were not finalized until shortly after 9 pm (1800 GMT, 2 pm EDT) Saturday. Prime Minister George Papandreou's Cabinet will meet 9:30 am (0630 GMT, 2:30 am EDT) Sunday to approve the measures. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou will announce the measures immediately afterward and then depart for Brussels where the 16 euro-zone finance ministers will meet at 4 pm (1400 GMT, 10:00 am EDT).
The measures are expected to include further hikes in consumer taxes, and deeper cuts in pensions and public service pay. The EU and especially the IMF also demand a significant overhaul of the civil service.
The government will submit special emergency legislation to Parliament that was agreed upon with the EU and the IMF at Saturday's negotiating session. The Parliament is expected to approve the measures by Friday.
Furious unions oppose the measures which they have called disastrous and a serious rollback of employee rights. Tens of thousands of demonstrators, including an estimated 17,000 in Athens, protested during annual May Day demonstrations Saturday against what they portrayed as Greece's capitulation to the IMF. The protests were largely peaceful but were marred toward the end when hundreds of youths rioted, throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at police who responded with tear gas. A state TV van was burned and several storefronts, mostly banks, were damaged. Police made at least nine arrests, including six people suspected of looting a shop. Seven officers were injured along with two demonstrators.
Leftist and anarchist demonstrators heckled and threw plastic water bottles at former parliamentary speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, a governing Socialist lawmaker, after spotting him among pedestrians on the sidelines of the Athens march. Kaklamanis, 73, was hit and kicked but was not seriously injured and was eventually whisked away by police.